This is the only Good Beer Guide pub in Harwich that was open during my visit to the town and although its frontage isn’t necessarily the most appealing I was aware from reviews that this would likely be a positive experience.
Customers need to walk down the little corridor and then into the bar area, ignoring the tempting doors to the side.
This range of real ale surprised me, five different options across numerous beer styles is hard to achieve and maintain quality. However, since they’re listed in the Good Beer Guide and the reviews are broadly positive, they’re clearly achieving that. The prices are high though, over £6 a pint for real ale is what I’d expect to see in London. However, this venue is primarily a restaurant and so I’m assuming those prices reflect that, although those just wanting a drink are also welcome and there are some stools at the bar for when they’re full of diners.
Not a very clear photo, but a sign showing how high the flood water rose in 1953.
The interior has plenty of character and feels homely. The service was informal and polite, although I wouldn’t say there was any attempt to much engage beyond the minimum needed. But, that’s fine, not every pub is going to be the Hop & Vine, a friendly welcome is sufficient for me.
I’ve had the Black Adder from Mauldons before and it’s a very good stout, a roasted flavour with a creamy texture, with the pint here tasting just as I expected. The crisps were also delicious and complemented the beer nicely.
Someone has added the word “beer” at the bottom, which isn’t a bad shout. The pub’s web-site has a section which has the title “Officially the finest pub in the East of England” underneath “CAMRA Real Ale Pub” but I can’t find any evidence of that on CAMRA’s area web-site. It did win the branch award seven years ago but I can’t find any regional awards, but perhaps they were from other organisations.
I’m slightly disappointed (and only very slightly, I have more pressing concerns) as well that the pub’s web-site mentions nothing of its history other than it dates from the 1850s. Instead, the Harwich Pub Trail has a full history of the pub which is interesting, particularly the reference to:
“As it stands the building dates from many different periods but it was probably built in 1464 as a house. By 1599 it was owned by Captain Twitt – a relative of Thomas Twitt (or Twytt) a merchant and brewer in the town. The Twitt family were well-connecting and well-known in the town and Captain Twitt’s daughter married Christopher Jones at St. Nicholas’s Church in 1593. Although Sara died aged 27 in 1603 her husband went on to own a rather famous ship named the Mayflower and used it to guide the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620.”
It was a Tolly Cobbold pub between 1957 and 1990, then Pubmaster before falling into the hands of the hopeless and hapless Punch Taverns who sold it in 2010. And there’s some more history and older photos here.
There’s elements of quirkiness that I like, such as the details of their six bedrooms where they note about the view from one that “it boasts a sea view and a view of a quite charming electrical substation“. I also hadn’t seen before the poster on the inside of the entrance to the toilet that said something along the lines of ‘let those coming in have priority, their need is greater than yours’. I like that informality, I think it gives a softer edge to the pub and makes it feel that bit more inviting.
As a random aside, it’s not my problem and nor indeed anything I’ll think about again after writing this, but I find the pub’s use of the CAMRA logo all over the place and on every page a little confusing, as well as the reference to their being a “CAMRA Real Ale Pub” without any links to the national web-site. It may be that CAMRA have authorised this use of the logo and wording, but it seems unusual terminology that I haven’t seen before.
The on-line reviews for the pub are very positive, so I’d say it’s a safe bet that the food is reliably good, whilst the clear fact they’re able to stock five real ales is showing just how much beer they’re selling. It’s one of the more expensive pubs I’ve been in for real ale, and actually the most expensive pub listed in the Good Beer Guide that I can recall and that includes tens of London pubs, but prices are rising and no venue is immune to them.
This is one of these pubs that’s worth coming to get a drink for just to feel part of the history of the building, but given the excellent choice of real ales and how well kept they are, that all comes together to feel like reasonable value for money. And I like the irreverent sense of humours that is evidence throughout the pub, all rather lovely.